May 19, 2024


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This French singer’s Breton first name is unpronounceable in English

This French singer’s Breton first name is unpronounceable in English

When choosing a name for your child, you ask yourself a lot of questions. Does he like the name? Can he be harmed? Made up nickname we could do without? Will it be fashionable in 10 years? etc. Some parents are even surprised that writing the first name is not so complicated when their child has to learn how to do it. However, the question we rarely ask is: How is it pronounced abroad? However, it is legitimate that today, more and more French people are immigrating abroad. Our language can seem very complicated at times, especially for Americans who have trouble pronouncing certain French words. When it’s a first name it’s very annoying and often has to be spelled. So, if your child decides to one day live in the US or Ireland and find it difficult for English speakers to pronounce his first name, he will have to find solutions. Fortunately, there are even harder French names. Among them, the most beautiful Breton first name is Nolwen, which sounds cute to us, but will quickly become a pronunciation nightmare for our English-speaking friends.

Etymology and Alternatives to the First Name Nolwen

Nolwen is a first name of Breton origin, meaning “white, happy”. In France, it has become a classic first name, currently worn by 13,424 girls since its appearance in the early 1960s. It peaked in 2002 with 862 births.

But Nolwen, like many Breton first names, is unpronounceable to English speakers. However, it resembles the first name Owen, for example, given in the United States. The problem here is not the “o” but the two letters “lw” that English speakers cannot connect. To overcome this problem, they can use variants like Nolene or Weenie. This second variant is more common among Americans, who especially prefer the suffixes that come from the end of the first name. For example, for the first name Margherita, it is more common to use the names Rita or Tina for Christina.

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As we’ve seen for Nolven, there are many possible solutions to creating a first name that’s a little more “English-friendly” and unpronounceable. The first is the simplest, but not suitable for all first names. It consists of taking the English variant of the first name. For example, Mathieu has the English variant Matthew, Alexandre gives Alexandre, etc.,… but many first names do not have English variants because they are lucky. In this case, it is preferable to change the first name and choose something similar to it. This is an example of the first name Anais, where the sound “ice” causes trouble for the English language, which can then be changed to Ana. Finally, the last solution and probably the simplest, depending on the first name, choose a small one that can sometimes offer many possibilities. Thus, Corentin can demand and Eleonore can give she.

These French First Names That Can’t Be Pronounced in English and Their Possible Variations


Here it is the “Oi” association that poses a problem. We can use its English variant, Anthony, or a similar first name, Anton.


Aurélien is a nightmare for English speakers because the “Au” sound isn’t as natural to pronounce as the “o” and the “ien” sound isn’t much better. They can use Aurel variant or simple Orel.

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The same problem as Aurélien, the first name Aurore has the peculiarity of combining two sounds with the letter “r”, which is almost impossible in the English language. They prefer Arya or Oriya.

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Grégoire is similar to Auror because he combines the two “r” sounds together. The Gregory variant is simpler and even more easily, you can choose Greg.


“Queen” with “tin” in Quentin often leads English speakers to pronounce it “Quentine”. To simplify the pronunciation, it is better to choose a small kent.


The “en” sound is not natural in English, so it suffices to use the well-known French phrase clém. American style, we might as well have chosen Tina.


Nothing could be simpler, as there is an English variant, amber, for ambre, which is complicated to pronounce “brae.”


Like Nolven, the Breton first name Loïc is a literal pronunciation of hell in the English language. Fortunately, there is a much simpler variation, the first name Louise.


This cute French first name, however, is a real torture to pronounce in English. We’d love the English variant Margaret, and its iconic Maggie would also be appropriate.